January 2021 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action

In January, the Security Council is expected to receive a briefing on the activities of the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL). A high-level Secretariat official is likely to brief, as is the incoming chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee. The Council may adopt a resolution supporting the compliance of all national and international stakeholders with the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement between the parties to the Libyan conflict.

UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September 2021, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 May 2021.

Key Recent Developments

Following the Berlin conference in January 2020, negotiations have been taking place between the Libyan parties—the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army) under General Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). These have centred on three tracks (economic, political and security), with varying levels of progress. The 5+5 Joint Military Commission—which is leading the negotiations on the security track and consists of five representatives each from the GNA and the LAAF—conducted its fourth round of talks in Geneva in October 2020, culminating in the signing of a ceasefire agreement on 23 October.

The agreement stipulates the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from all sovereign Libyan spaces within three months of the signing of the agreement. It calls for the withdrawal of all military units and armed groups from the frontlines, an immediate suspension of foreign military training and the departure of training personnel. The signatories further requested that the Council adopt a resolution supporting the compliance of all national and international stakeholders with the ceasefire agreement.

Tenuous progress has been made on the three tracks since the ceasefire agreement was signed. Regarding the military track, Acting Special Representative and head of UNSMIL Stephanie Williams noted in her 19 November 2020 open videoconference (VTC) briefing to the Council that the 5+5 Joint Military Commission had met twice in early November to discuss the terms of the Libyan-led, UN-supported ceasefire monitoring mechanism. The mechanism is initially expected to cover an area running from Sawknah to Abu Grein and Bin Jawad, in central Libya. She added that the commission identifies as a priority the “reopening of the coastal road between Misrata and Sirte, supported by the deployment of a joint security force as well as the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from the area”. Sirte has strategic significance because of its proximity to Libya’s oil crescent, where most of the country’s oil export terminals are located.

Williams emphasised in her 19 November 2020 briefing that the situation remained volatile and added that the two sides have yet to withdraw their forces from the frontlines. Additionally, Williams noted in a 2 December 2020 statement that there are 20,000 foreign forces or mercenaries in Libya, emphasising that this constitutes a violation of the UN arms embargo on Libya and of Libyan sovereignty.

In resolution 2510 of 12 February 2020, the Council endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference and requested the Secretary-General to report on several aspects of the conclusions, including on “proposals for effective ceasefire monitoring under the auspices of the UN”. Resolution 2542 of 15 September, which renewed UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021, asked the Secretary-General to submit that information “no later than 60 days after the adoption of this resolution” (that is, by 15 November). The Secretary-General requested an extension of the deadline until 30 December 2020 in a 13 November letter to the Security Council. He noted that the extension will allow for the outcome of ongoing talks by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission on the modalities of the ceasefire monitoring mechanism to inform the Secretariat’s proposals.

The Security Council, in its 18 November 2020 letter approving the deadline extension, requested an interim briefing on progress by the Secretariat in articulating proposals for the ceasefire monitoring mechanism. Following the Council’s request, Williams briefed the Council on 15 December 2020 in closed VTC consultations. It appears that Williams spoke about the ongoing dialogue between the parties in the three tracks while noting that the parties would prefer a light UN footprint in the monitoring of the ceasefire agreement. In press elements issued after the meeting, members of the Security Council underlined the importance of a “credible and effective Libyan-led ceasefire monitoring mechanism” while calling for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya in line with the ceasefire agreement.

On the political track, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) held its first in-person session in Tunis between 7 and 15 November 2020. Formed in line with the conclusions of the Berlin conference, the LPDF consists of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies; 26 of its representatives were elected by the House of Representatives (HoR) and the High Council of State (HCS) and 49 (including 16 women) were selected by UNSMIL.

On 13 November 2020, the LPDF reached agreement, by consensus, to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December 2021. To that end, the LPDF adopted a national roadmap that articulates objectives and deadlines for forming institutions capable of organising elections and implementing political, economic and military reforms. The objectives include the formation of a new executive authority, with a new presidency council and a government of national unity, to be led by a prime minister and two deputies whose main mandate will be to lead during the transitional period towards elections, reunify state institutions, and provide security and basic services to the population until elections are held.

The LPDF held a second round of consultations between 23 November and 5 December 2020 to discuss criteria for the selection of the unified executive authority that would oversee the preparatory phase preceding the elections. At the time of writing, representatives of the LPDF have yet to agree on a selection mechanism for appointees to senior positions in the new executive authority.

Regarding the economic track, UNSMIL convened a meeting of representatives of Libyan economic institutions in Geneva on 14 and 15 December 2020 to discuss possible economic reforms. Participants outlined steps to consolidate the national budget and developed recommendations to unify the currency exchange rate—at present, there are different exchange rates in areas controlled by the GNA and LAAF–to ensure greater stability of the Libyan currency. On 16 December, the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Libya conducted its first meeting in five years, in which it announced its decision to unify the exchange rate.

UNSMIL has remained without an appointed head since 2 March 2020 when Ghassan Salamé announced his resignation as Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, citing stress-related health reasons. Resolution 2542 split the role of Special Representative into a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and Mission Coordinator of UNSMIL, following pressure by the US. On 16 December, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Raisedon Zenenga of Zimbabwe as Mission Coordinator of UNSMIL. On 15 December, the Security Council sent a letter to the Secretary-General endorsing the appointment of Nickolay Mladenov, the current Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Middle East Peace Process, as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Libya and head of UNSMIL. However, on 21 December, Mladenov informed the Secretary-General that he will resign from the UN on 31 December because of personal and family reasons and will not be able to take up the position of Special Envoy for Libya.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 11 November 2020, Libya’s human rights record was examined for the third time by the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group. According to the Working Group’s draft report (A/HRC/WG.6/36/L.13), the Libyan delegation noted that political divisions compromised reforms relating to human rights, treaty ratification and legislative action. Mohamed Lamlom, Libya’s justice minister, said Libya attached “great importance to the review process”. During the interactive dialogue, Libya received 285 additional recommendations, particularly calls for cooperation with the UN Fact-Finding Mission, established by the Human Rights Council in July 2020.

Key Issues and Options

The ongoing conflict in Libya and related non-compliance with the arms embargo by multiple international actors have been persistent issues for the Council, together with the implementation of the Berlin Conference’s conclusions.

One option for the Council is to adopt a resolution supporting the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, as the agreement’s signatories have requested. At the time of writing, negotiations on such a resolution have yet to begin. It seems that Council members would like the resolution to be informed by, among other things, the Secretariat’s proposals for ceasefire monitoring and the progress by the Libyan parties on the political track. Although resolution 2542 mandated UNSMIL to “provide appropriate support” to the implementation of the ceasefire once it was agreed, Council members might seek to endorse specific measures contained in the Secretariat’s proposals for ceasefire monitoring under UN auspices.

Council Dynamics

The Council continues to be divided over Libya. Council outcomes routinely call upon UN member states to cease support for parallel institutions in Libya, but some countries, including members of the Council, fail to respect these calls.

Mercenaries from several countries are reportedly fighting on both sides, as acknowledged in the ceasefire agreement. All foreign sponsors except Turkey deny their role in Libya.

A confidential report by the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee that was leaked to the press in early May 2020 said that the Russian private military company Wagner Group had deployed around 1,200 mercenaries to fight for Haftar, according to media reports. The Kremlin denied having ties to the Wagner Group despite accusations to the contrary by various sources. Several Council members, including Germany and the US, have publicly criticised Russia in this regard. For its part, Russia joined other Council members in calling for the withdrawal of mercenaries from Libya in the press elements following the 15 December 2020 consultations.

The UK is the penholder on Libya. At the time of writing, the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee to succeed Germany, which is leaving the Council on 31 December, had yet to be named.

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Security Council Resolutions
15 September 2020S/RES/2542 This extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021; it was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).
12 February 2020S/RES/2510 This endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya.
Security Council Letters
27 October 2020S/2020/1043 This letter contained a copy of the permanent ceasefire agreement signed by the Libyan parties in the 5+5 Joint Military Commission on 23 October 2020.